Tuesday, July 15, 2014

General Charles Augustus Doyen: 1st Navy DSM + Grandmother Ruth Alice Doyen Austin

General Charles Augustus Doyen (1859-1918)
I am indebted to military historian, Mark Dutton, for his research on my paternal great grandfather, Brigadier General Charles Augustus Doyen - the recipient of the first distinguished service medal awarded by the Navy.

As officially reported in 1919: "The first distinguished-service medal to be awarded by the Navy Department was to-day posthumously conferred upon Brig. Gen. Charles A. Doyen, of the United States Marine Corps, the man credited with having "built" the Fourth Brigade of Marines, which acquitted itself so valorously in the Chateau-Thierry sector." General Doyen commanded the Fourth Brigade, 2nd Division in France until he was struck by influenza during the Pandemic of 1918 and died October 6, 1918 at Quantico.

Mark Dutton has done an enormous amount of research on General Doyen's military career and the history of the Navy DSM (Distinguished Service Medal). Much of Dutton's work is posted at Ancestry.com for anyone to consult. He contacted me to see if our family might still have General Doyen's medal, since the initial design was later changed and there are no known examples of this first version. I was sorry to tell him that I didn't know where the medal might be, but perhaps some other relative can answer this for him.

Here is Mark Dutton's image of what the first Navy DSM medal probably looked like:

As a social historian, I am able to add a few new photographs of General Doyen, and more information about his daughter, Ruth Alice Doyen Austin (1894-1954). I will be adding to this section over the next week.

Charles Augustus Doyen was born in New Hampshire in 1859 and attended the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland in the Class of 1881.  In 1892, Doyen married Claude Fay (1871-1943). Miss Fay's  father was William Wirt Fay, a Professor at the Naval Academy for 36 years, and her mother  was Julia Griswold Phillips from Newport, Rhode Island.  (Another one of their daughters, Mary Fay, married USMC Major General Joseph Henry Pendleton - for whom Camp Pendleton is named.)

The Doyen's had two daughters. My father's mother is Ruth Alice Doyen Austin (1894-1954) and then later Mrs. Doyen gave birth to my Great Aunt Fay Doyen Johnson (1901-1984), whom I visited growing up, at their home known as Jubilee, in Leonardtown, Maryland on the Potomac.

My Grandmother Austin was born in Brooklyn, NY on May 19, 1984 and is referred to twice in records as an adopted daughter.  Ruth Alice is not listed in the 1900 census with Claude Fay, who is designated as having no children. My first records of my grandmother are from family photos saved by her children and labeled: Mama at 5, and Mama at 6. These two photos are reproduced below and show the distinctive family feature of very very pale blue eyes. The second photo, from 1900, is from a studio in NY, suggesting she might still have been living in NY until the age of 6?

Ruth Alice Doyen, c. 1899-1900, age 5 here and age 6 below

In the 1910 census, 15 year-old Ruth Alice Doyen is listed as an adopted daughter, born in New York, of a NY mother and a German father. I have no more information about this.

Three years later, Ruth marries my Grandfather Austin at a huge wedding in Bremerton, Washington.

My father, Jason McVay Austin, Jr. is born in 1915 while the family is stationed in the Philipines.

Here, my dad is described by his proud father:
 "He is a whale. Has blue eyes, dark hair. Eyes are so blue they look artificial."

My father, Jason McVay Austin, in 1917 with his mother, Ruth Alice Doyen Austin.
On the steps of her father's house n the Bremerton Washington Navy Yard.
Note the sign on the column: "Colonel Doyen".

The family grew to include four children by 1920: Jason McVay (b. 1915), Claude Fay (b. 1917), Ruth Raymonde (b. 1919), and Alice Doyen (b. 1920).  Four more children were born between 1921-1927.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Woman's Employment, 1882 by Mary Pickering McVay

Woman’s Employment, 1882
By Mary Pickering McVay [Austin] (1859-1950)

A graduation oration written and read by my great grandmother, Mary Pickering McVay, at her college graduation from Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU), June 1882. She was 23. 

Woman! What is she? What has she been? What are the possibilities in her future?

She has been a tender harmless individual, a little narrowed in her conception of life by her dutiful deference to the opinions of the other sex, but on the whole she has served them well. A commendation, which ought to be glory enough; a testament, which it should be her highest ambition to obtain.

But “pity as it is, ‘tis true” that the women of today have begun to pause in the midst of their duties and to wonder if there may not be some mistake; if it be not possible that the Lord has some higher standard for women. The burdens of her home are dear, but she questions if to bear them cheerfully be all her mission.

She observes that in tastes, inclinations, capabilities she is like her neighbors. She knows that among her brethren different endowments point to different spheres, and she questions if, after all, she and her sisters be not wrong in attempting to restrain all the differing talents God has given them, so that these may now lead over the barriers which man, not God, has erected.

The woman that is, is an interrogation point; the woman that is to be, the answer.

That she is to be the same affectionate wife, mother, and sister, none ought to dispute; but as their father and husband provide for his family in the manner best pleasing to himself, and which gives him the most freedom to the talents he possesses, so she has begun to find her way into broader fields.

What a few women are has demonstrated what many can be, and has aroused the popular mind to the realization of the fact that some of the old theories are done away. In this day of advanced thought, it is not sufficient that a custom was sanctioned by our fathers. But everything is examined in the light of reason and justice that we may know whether it seems right and best for those now concerned.

In this question of woman’s work, the ancient Solomon was in advance of many of our sages.
His wise woman “buildeth her house” while the foolish “plucketh it down”; his Model Woman does indeed delight the heart of her husband, which “doth safely trust in her”. “She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life”. “She riseth while it is yet night and giveth meat to her household”. “She is not afraid of the snow, for all her household are clothed with scarlet.” Like a true daughter of Eve, “she maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.” She is all this and more.

She is not only a skillful housekeeper and a superior seamstress, but we find her a business woman. “She considereth a field and buyeth it, with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard”. She is a manufacturer. “She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hand hold the distaff.” “She maketh fine linen and selleth it, and delivers girdles unto the merchants.” [See Proverbs 31)

She is an importer. She is like the merchant’s ships: “She bringeth her food from afar.” She is a philanthropist: “She stretcheth out her hand to the poor.” She is not dependent upon her husband for position but brings him into prominence. “Her husband is known in the gates.” She is not the weaker, but “strength and honor are her clothing.” She is not the open-eyed, innocent non-entity some would have her, but a teacher. “She openeth her mouth with wisdom.” “Her children rise up and call her blessed, her husband also.” And Solomon does not limit her reward with commendations, but says: “Give her the fruits of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.”

In this illustrious description of a many-sided woman, we have the keynote of her place in the Christian dispensation. She is the high priestess of her home, loved and cherished, but when necessity or inclination call her, she is not excluded from social or business life.

Woman is not to blame that the perplexing question of the age is: “What shall we do with her?” and “From what shall we exclude her?” These are not questions of her own asking.

President Garfield well understood her needs when he said, “At present, the most valuable gift which can be bestowed upon woman is something which she can do well and worthily and thereby maintain herself.” What that “something” is, is thrust upon each conscientious inquirer to answer, for the welfare of the race.

To many, our educational enterprises offer special inducements. Women are needed who, inspired by an enthusiasm, half of heart and half of intellect, will devote to the vocation of teaching a strong will, a loving heart, a mind of the highest culture, and a piety of the most earnest tone.

But our educational institutions cannot give employment to all. Literature furnishes unbounded delight to those who are provided daily bread, but even the most gifted can hardly hope to be successful in a financial point of view. Music and Art require a long course of training and then only a few attain success, and that because of their extraordinary genius, which of itself commands attention.

For years men have been cooperating and systematizing their labors. Why could not woman’s work be divided and systematized? Why could we not have cooperative cooking houses, laundries, and sewing establishments? Such institutions, by giving opportunity for promotion and self-improvement would do away with the idea that household work is degrading, and would furnish employment.

For years men have been systematizing their labors. The ablest brains of centuries have given their thoughts to plans of cooperation and every branch of business has been divided. Intricate machines have been invented until man’s work has assumed comparatively easy proportions and every branch of labor is filled with competent workers.

But while men have thus advanced, women have been working in the same weary routine, each one trying to harmonize the most dissimilar kinds of work, doing some parts well and others poorly. Why should not her work be divided and systematized? Why not find furnish opportunity for employment for the myriads of women who, possessing all the craving tastes and sensibilities of a true womanly nature, are yet poor and self-dependent?

Woman’s business capacity has been shown among French women where many large business houses are conducted by widows of their former proprietors, and reference has recently been made in one of our own daily journals to a young lady, who for several years has had the care of a large business for a Baltimore millionaire.

In many parts of Europe women are taking positions in the Government employ, and are proving efficient workers in all respects, losing none of the dignity, delicacy and reserve that are essential to woman’s character.

Branches of work are being opened in every direction, that are available and do not involve undesirable publicity. Schools have been organized giving instruction in the arts of making original designs of wallpaper, dry goods, draperies, frescoing and molding, and the whole field of Decorative Art will soon be considered the work of women.

Woman is proving herself capable of holding positions which society and the business world have long denied her. She is making progress that is steady and unceasing, and which demands tact and skill of the most varied character.

Now more than ever her hands are learning to work and her brains to invent and imagine. Without stepping over the boundary, which pronounces her unwomanly, she is becoming braver, stronger, and more undaunted, and her intellectual force is recognized as of the highest order.

Dare to be a woman!

1882 Oration address at Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU) by Mary Pickering McVay, age 23.

Mary Pickering McVay married OWU math professor Cyrus Brooks Austin (1851-1924) on August 28, 1884 and they had three children: Jason McVay Austin (1886-1966), Raymond Brooks Austin (1889–1918 WWI) Cyrus Bashford Austin (1896-1989). Only my grandfather, Jason, had descendents; my father, Jason Jr. was the oldest of eight.

Notes on source by Nancy A. Austin (b.1954): My father, Jason McVay Austin (1915-1996), gave me this text as a typed manuscript in August 1993.  He said that (his grandmother) Mary Pickering McVay’s Graduation Oration “surfaced again in the summer of 1950 when it was found among her papers after her death by my father [Jason McVay Austin 1886-1966], my Uncle Cyrus [Cyrus Bashford Austin 1896-1989], and myself. It was loaned to Gwendolyn Marriott Denison, OWU-1923, who used it in writing a tribute to Mary Pickering McVay Austin which was published in the October 1950 Oho Wesleyan Magazine.” My father tried to locate it again for forty years until his brother, Robert M. Austin (1925-2007), found it in 1993 in his attic along with other papers collected from their father, Jason McVay Austin’s house in Baltimore at his death in January 1966, which occurred while my father was out of the country traveling on business. 

Above: Mary Pickering McVay Austin in 1937

 In 1884,  Mary Pickering McVay (1859-1950) married Cyrus Brooks Austin (1851-1924).
Dr. Austin graduated from Ohio Wesleyan with a B.A. in 1879 and an M. A. in 1882 - 
the year of her graduation oration - and later received a D. D. (doctor of divinity).  
He was a math professor and Dean of Women at OWU from 1883-1920.

Mary Pickering McVay and Cyrus Brooks Austin had three children, shown here in 1899.
(r): my paternal grandfather Jason McVay Austin (1886-1966); (center): Raymond Brooks Austin (1889 - Oct 6, 1918 killed in action in Felville, France weeks just before the Nov 1918 end of World War I); and (l): Cyrus Bashford Austin (1896-1989), a NYC lawyer who had no children.

In 1937, my father, Jason McVay Austin (1915-1996) 
and his paternal grandmother, Mary Pickering McVay Austin (1859 - 1950) 

Mary Pickering McVay Austin's son and grandson, c.1950: 
(r) Jason McVay Austin (1886-1966) and (l) Jason McVay Austin, Jr. (1915-1996)

Mary Pickering McVay Austin's grandson, Jason McVay Austin, Jr. (1915-Dec 13, 1996), 
and great grand-daughter Nancy Alice Austin (b. 1954). Taken in Florida August 16, 1996.

My children, Caroline Austin Woolard (b. 1984) & Cyrus Orion Austin Woolard  (b. 1985) 
celebrating my Brown Ph.D., May 2009.

Cyrus Woolard studies  the bust of his grandfather, Jason McVay Austin, 1990. 

Caroline Woolard's senior show at Cooper Union, 2006.  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Nancy Austin's Lenten Meditation April 2, 2014

Central Congregational Church (Providence, RI)

I joined this church last fall and will be baptized by Claudia during the Easter vigil service. As a new member, I want to thank you, and everyone in the congregation, for so warmly welcoming me. It has been great to have so many varied opportunities to join in shared fellowship. At the same time, I also appreciate the respect shown for my pretty private, serious and contemplative nature.  Professionally, and by inclination, I spend a lot of time deep in thought, and it is not always easy for me to quickly transition from that place into the public realm of “Hello!” And words, sentences. All the happy sounds of voices sharing. So I might ask your patience. It takes me longer to the swim to the surface than some of you.

I want to send a special shout-out to my shepherds, Ann & Jim Scott, who couldn’t be here tonight. They went out of their way to make sure I got introduced to everyone - when I would have been much more inclined to try and blend into the woodwork, maybe for years. But Ann had me immediately jumping in to work on the Gift Baskets for the Christmas Bazaar – and it was a good thing. As was attending the Women’s Retreat, reading the book of Matthew together by candlelight, helping out at the Camp St. food pantry, joining the UCC- state-wide event, visiting the Coptic Church, being offered this opportunity to share my faith journey (in progress) during Lent with you tonight  -- these are some of the special events I have cherished, alongside coming to church every Sunday – a fundamental commitment in my life now.

I could repeat what many have said before. We worship together in an amazing sacred space, filled with luminous music. As those that went on the Women’s Retreat know, I admire people with beautiful singing voices. And it has been a delight to hear my own voice, un-judged, joining a church filled with singing voices. I like everything about the service: Rebecca and Claudia’s meaningful sermons, the Bible reading, Aidan’s generous work building the next generations, getting to know so many remarkable women – especially those older than me. (Shout out to Betty Selle - so vibrant and inspiring! What a mentor for how to live fully at 94!!!) All of this is giving me the strength and wisdom to imagine how to conduct a well-lived final third of my life. I want to get this next phase of my life right, and I am looking to this congregation to help me with that one.

So. This is my snapshot of the church that I joined a short seven months ago. Everyone has been wonderful and I have no regrets.

 Central Congregational Church Christmas Bazaar, Dec. 2013

Nancy Austin at the Women's Retreat, Feb. 2014

But why did I come to this church? In Providence? All the way from Newport?  What can I say about my personal faith journey that has brought me to stand here in front of you? Here is the way I’m going to try and convey that story tonight.

Nancy Austin at eight years old. A pensive me (May 1962)

In my first memory of church, I am in elementary school, and holding my father’s hand as we walked up the looong walk up to the austere un-ornamented, tall, steepled, all white (in every sense) Presbyterian Church in Westfield, NJ, a Barrington-like suburb of NYC where I grew up. I loved my father then and now very much and asked him as we made our way like slow pilgrims up to the church door that Sunday: "How is my Grandfather doing?" Since I knew my mother had flown back to Ohio to be with my Grandfather - who was sick. And my father, the Marine, looked into the distance, as only a Marine can do, and said: “Well, Grandfather had a few crackers to eat last night, and then he went to sleep." My mother would be back in a few days.  

Since I was a child, and so much in my family already struck me as cryptic, inexplicable and often, in truth, down right secretive, I gathered that my dad, whom I loved, was trying to tell me something important but I really had no clear idea what. And I shouldn’t press the issue.  No one in church that day (or ever for that matter) said anything to me about dying or my family’s loss or the mystery of heaven. We just each individually soldiered on with our day.

Around this same time my father was diagnosed with kidney cancer and had one of his kidneys removed. As it turned out, my dad became one of the few people at that time to live 5 years after a kidney cancer diagnosis. What is relevant here is that my parents were tremendously worried. Rightly so. And this worry was compounded by the anxiety that my dad would lose his job if anyone at Union Carbide far away on Park Avenue in NYC knew. So they kept his cancer a secret that we were never to talk about or ever mention to anyone in any way. My mother, raised in the Depression, became even more draconian in her need to never spend money, have no debt and save as much as possible. My father, who eventually died at 81 at home, with me, of a different cancer, spent all those years under this private death sentence and later said he felt that he never could justify spending even a quarter on himself.

Today, I am better able to understand how different generations are differently shaped by different world historical events. And this spills over into church life. Perhaps for my father the austere white church in Westfield reminded him of the vast acreage of white crosses at Argonne Cemetery in France, where his Uncle Raymond and 14,000 other American soldiers had died during one offensive at the end of World War One. Or, closer in time, the miracle that he had survived active duty as a Marine, for the entirety of both WWII and the Korean War. I better understand how unwelcome the 1960s were to my parents who were both raised in the Depression, and deeply shaped forever by the trauma of WWII. As I mentioned, my father was on active combat as a Marine Corp officer (mostly in the South Pacific) from the moment he graduated from college until Oct 1945 when his orders to invade Japan were stopped -  in his view, just in the nick of time - by the bomb. (How we argued about the V.J. Day Holiday here in Rhode Island!) Today, I can understand and empathize with all my parents were trying to do in moving to Westfield to live a normal, post war life. Although after my father got cancer, perhaps the normal was always just out of reach, or maybe it was all they could do to take care of all the many daily challenges of raising a family far away from the support of extended families?

Our Family on Easter 1962

The Presbyterian Church, Westfield, NJ

Easter Sunday 1966 at the Presbyterian Church in Westfield, NJ

Both my parents were very active in the church in Westfield, and perhaps they did turn to the church for their many private worries. But in my upbringing, I don’t recall anyone ever stopping to have a deep or forthright conversation with me about anything. Not that Sunday that my Grandfather died. Not in compassionate response to any of the many red flags I began raising from 4th grade on. Nor at any point in my career as a promiscuous Girl Scout or on through high school Confirmation -- despite many indications I was a girl with things on her mind, looking for someone to talk to and hear me out. Indeed, my few tentative efforts to speak even privately with someone I thought I could trust about what I had to say, …my efforts were met with behavior not unlike the authorities in Rebecca’s sermon last Sunday who wanted no one to disturb the status quo. … I still ponder the questions: How do we learn to listen and really hear another human being? How do we listen across generations and in changing times? What does it take to stand up for the innocent and vulnerable?

I offer this anecdote with compassion for my parents, to give you all perhaps some insight into why I am a keen observer, private, accustomed to being alone, self-reliant, keeping my own counsel, and not inclined to ask for help or trust that someone will respond to my request for help. On the flip side, this perspective has made me sensitive to the plight of vulnerable people, innocent people, changing teens and young adults – trying to find themselves, for better and sometimes for worse. And also I am attentive to outsiders. Often since innocent childhood, people in crisis or distress have turned to me privately, even secretly, for counsel or wisdom or solace against the void of their own demons and despair. And I have been strong helping to carry their burdens as my own. Even when it was never my job. I have walked this walk for people, deep into the night, with good people, confused people, even broken or downright evil people, even at the risk of my own death. And I have survived to be here with you in this congregation today. Only God knows what I have seen, soul to soul. 

Burying Mom next to Dad, near Ohio Wesleyan (June 2012)

Howard, Marshall & Nancy - pilgrimage to bury Mom 

When I was 19, I met my future husband in Worcester, and we moved in together the day we met.  For ten happy years we dreamed together our dream of the future, as we worked and saved and Bert became the first person in his family to go to college, then the first to become a medical doctor. I finished a Masters in Art History at Brown on a full scholarship and began teaching as an adjunct college professor. Both my brothers were physicians, married to physicians at the time, and my parents sighed relief that all had turned out so well. 3 married children and 5 doctors! What a bonanza!

Nancy Austin, Bert Woolard, Mary Alice Austin (Westfield, 1976)

And then there was me, who completed a double major in chemistry and math, but left science in graduate school to study sacred painting and architecture – which in many ways is really what the classical canon of Art History is composed of. … Only we leave out the faith part. I have probably visited more churches, synagogues, and temples all over the world than many of you, including prolonged stays in Rome, and over time the emotional experience of sacred spaces overwhelmed the analytical historian I had been trained to be. What was the mystery of faith that kept some of these buildings alive with worship for generations, even centuries, .. even millennia? 

c. 1200 Apse Mosaic of the Tree of Life, Basilica of San Clemente, Rome

50 Stimson Ave (May 1983 - Dec 1995)
Speaking of architecture, many people love the nearby yellow house at 50 Stimson Ave, tucked into the corner, and when my husband and I managed to actually buy that house for $170K in 1983, after he finished his residency at Rhode Island Hospital, I really felt like we were the luckiest people alive. We were an incredibly happy and committed couple poised to start adult life after 10 years of hard work spent dreaming of this very moment. And yet. It is a shock I never really quite get over.  Bert & I discovered – as many do - that dreaming a future was a very different occupation than finally getting the chance to live that dream. Within the year we discovered how much we didn’t know about one another, and how few skills we had to address our mounting adult challenges. Before our second child was born in 1985, we were discussing divorce.

Beloved Caroline, born January 1984
Beloved Cyrus, born March 1985

But. We agreed to soldier on. Especially since we both adored our children, and loved loving them. And on paper everything looked as if it couldn't have been more perfect. Except that it wasn't. Like my dad’s secret battle with a real cancer, our estrangement became a looming secret emotional cancer, and we didn’t even know how to find a doctor, let alone an emergency room, really, ever. Although of course we tried, in our own embarrassed, private, even secret ways. I panicked trying to finish my Ph.D. and secure a tenure track job to support myself. But Bert worked all the time and was happy to delegate running the household to me. Children got sick, and had to be taken here and there; and I never somehow could line all the pieces up for a Plan B.

Wait!!! WAIT!!! Was I blind? Here you all were as a congregation, all this time -- not two blocks from my house. With architecture, signage, a presence in place. What was my problem? 

Here you all were. All this time. Not two blocks away from my house. I ask myself often: what would have made it possible for 30- to 50-year-old Nancy to have joined this congregation at any point before divorce? Although this question is academic now for my family, I offer my regrets and reflections to you as a cautionary tale about people’s hidden burdens, the poisonous nature of secrets, about the challenges of making a marriage work, and the honesty and support every relationship needs from a larger community. I didn’t trust that anyone would hear my pain. Or that church fellowship could be about sharing difficult, even humbling, conversations together, - as well as soldering on side-by-side.

My now ex-husband & I never did figure out how to be an adult couple that communicated. We never did find a way to negotiate collective priorities and together as a family achieve shared goals. And so, in our daughter’s senior year at Wheeler, after many earlier efforts to find other ways to deal with one another, we agreed to privately – even secretly – to separate and divorce. We agreed that since this was about our failings, not anything at all our wonderful children had done, we would do everything possible not to impact them. I would set up a downsized home base; Bert – who only wanted to travel and hated houses as it turned out, would get a condo; never have more children; and we would continue to honor and help celebrate the only family our children had known their entire life. Needless to say, as almost anyone who has been divorced will likely warn you, the last 10 years have not followed that script.

I began here tonight with the story of my Dad’s failure to help me prepare for and process my Grandfather’s death. How do we end up repeating behaviors from our parents we so desperately wanted never to repeat? I am overwhelmed with sadness at how Bert & I sprung divorce on our kids, finally, after it was quietly and legally put in place.  I cringe at our inability to deal with conflict and how we lied to ourselves as well as our children about how this “adjustment” to living apart would change nothing, but really everything would change.

For a decade now, my two children and I have worked hard to rebuild a different kind of family. There have been and continue to be devastating moments of sadness. But it has been the journey to life lived in community. And so I come to you now. Ask and you shall receive. (Note that the Bible doesn’t tell you what you will receive!)  My journey of healing has brought me to this congregation. Hospitals may cure you of disease, but it takes a faith community to heal.

What words could have reached the long-ago 30-year old me? A new mother trying on unrehearsed adult roles with no mentors? Self-conscious; untrusting; assuming everyone else had it all together? I just don’t know, but I wish I had at least tried attending church in my confusion and pain. Why was it easier to let a malady fester into a terminal disease for my family rather than take the chance – a risk – to just walk in the door here any Sunday? Maybe stay for coffee; find a new friend? Why was it easier to endure, to soldier on, than imagine the possible light of transformation in a faith community?

Tonight I stand before you as a credible human being and share my story. I tell everyone I know: Come to Central - even if you don’t think it will matter. Bring your kids, especially if you think you have convinced yourself you are an outlier or carry burdens no one could possibly understand or empathize with. Know that even though people here look pretty pulled together, the congregation includes people I have already met in seven short months who are open to offering a trusting ear to listen. You are not alone. There is no need for the cancer of secrets. The Bible is a wisdom book that has helped me beyond all the books in my pretty vast library.    Or just come to church on Sunday and cry. Offer for those people to come sit with me! We can cry together side by side, and mumble the words to the hymns through our veil of tears.

In closing, I want to sound like I was a plant for the pledge drive this Sunday. But I am not. It matters to me that even though this church was here when I moved to Stimson Ave in 1983, and I was simply too blind to see… It matters to me that it remained a Beacon and a Reference Point that was really ALWAYS there for me to come home to.  I want to thank you for building an incredible community day after day, and year after year, to where I got to witness Rev. Rebecca Spencer’s 25 years of service celebration this fall. Thank you for continually renewing a congregation that was begun generations before. I must be a very slow learner, but 30 years later, God has reached into my heart and finally brought me to a place where I could join - and here you are!!! A thriving and established community, with deep roots that continue to yield. Steadily welcoming new members, including me - among many many others. Steadfastly continuing to do the work to care for the next generation. Offering fellowship. Helping us all find wisdom and love and peace as we age.

Thank you for welcoming me home to worship together in this faith community. Better late, than never.  Thank you so much.

Nancy Austin

Newport, RI
Lenten Meditation, April 2014

Nancy, Caroline and Cyrus - Christmas in Newport

Beloved Tugboat, 1997 - March 28, 2014